Project 1: The distance between us

I re-read the introduction to this part of the course more than 5 times. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand what was being asked of me, but more re-thinking the terms used. This some up the depth of understanding required at this point. I like to think I show an understanding of my models and clients wants from a photoshoot. I think this as important as a sales person trying to sell. It reminds me of the TV series; ‘Mr Selfridge’. He pulls up the head of fashion for not listening to what the client has asked for. The head of fashion argues that client doesn’t like the current fashion, and wasn’t ‘in the mood’. I think there is a lot of creativity in all kinds of sales. The creativity is in the ability to imagine yourself in the customers shoes and create a scenario in which the item of interest would fit.

This is creativity in my opinion, and ’empathy’ is the present circumstance that allows you to understand and share someones feelings. A good sales person could creatively create a sense of empathy.

empathy
noun
  1. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Exercise 5.1

Mulling this exercise over again and again, I considered various different age groups and view points, even animals viewpoints. I felt for me personally this brief would work best for me with a living ‘thing’. I know modernists could argue at the option of still objects still offering meaning and deep empathy in various ways, but this would not be me and my thought process. I had to just clear my head, start again and almost go with the first thing that came to mind.

The first thing that came to mind was from the perspective of a child. I have had a constant battle and frustration for years, trying to prove myself and appear mature. I still battle with this with family, ex-colleagues, and business contacts who speak to me in a way that I find patronising. It doesn’t help that I am very young looking for 25 years and only 5 foot 2. I watch 2 of my nieces with a sympathetic eye. One is 3 years and one is 2. The 2 year old is at the age where she still can’t fully communicate what she wants, she is still restricted in many ways such as going upstairs by herself and earlier bedtimes etc. My 3 year old niece often relishes in making an example of these advantages she holds. It reminds me so much of me an my own sister, yet I am the oldest, my younger sister was taller than me from an early age and relished in patronising me. The 2 year old niece, changes completely when she is with her own baby sister. She becomes the older, more dominating child, she has her confidence, and so the cycle continues.

This was one of my favourite shots of my niece. She was so caught up (un-distracted by me) in ‘playing’. Yet, un-beknown to her she is playing at being a grown up, and I can empathise with this so much. I remember playing with phones and doll just as she is doing, and when I was able to have proper conversations, I’d be talking about getting married and having grown up things etc. I longed for a mobile phone so I could be grown up too. I don’t need to see her face in this, I think it is obvious enough what she is doing and how naturally it comes to her.

This shot, I was torn between deciding whether it was a success or not. I think it best demonstrates that struggle between siblings and the instinct for us to take pride in being someones superior. My niece was taking the bags of jigsaw pieces off the baby, although it may have been the right thing to do, I am not sure what her motivations were for this. For the baby, it is that struggle to reach and grab and progress. It seems such hard work, and I suppose it is. Like someone who has suffered a stroke and is going through rehabilitation, the mental struggle they must face; knowing what they want, what they need to do, but just can’t do it yet.

This image seemed to go slightly off point but I also loved its other narrative. If you observe how the partition between the two rooms separates the lightness where my niece is playing from the darkness. There is an explosion of colour where she dominates the room with her toys, and the lack of order. She herself is radiating colour and happiness. The wide angle has warped the scale of the furniture, making it seem much bigger than her which emphasises how small she is in a dark, almost scary, grown-ups world.

The poor baby niece desperately tries to gain her independence in many ways, you can see it every day in her expressions and attempts to get to objects out of her reach, push herself into positions and stances that her body just isn’t ready for. Everything seems a constant struggle, and then her big sister comes along and makes her ambitions even more difficult. I also find it fascinating the confidence of children, the natural behaviour, un-tainted by emotional pressure. There are no rules to fashion, games, rules or ‘normality’ with them. I watched the pair of them playing in order to capture these photos. Luckily they are both relaxed enough around me to just get on and ignore me, and be themselves.

I have empathy always for the younger or smaller person, it always feels like that person is me. But then again, my ‘superior’ probably has their own superior. I have chosen this final image as a an overall representation of this my struggle, and the struggle of so many others young and old, aiming high. Looking up at the ‘sky’ is something I don’t think any of us didn’t experience growing up. What I also love about this image is how colourful my niece naturally is, how she contrasts with her grown up Uncle. The party hat was applied with no influence, and as she presents toys to her Uncle in order to gain ‘approval’ or ‘interest’, I love how she may be ignorant to our affection being toward her young self, her individuality and her innocence towards feelings of embarrassment or humility.

Research Point

Terry Barretts article on Photograph’s and Content explains clearly how a photograph can be offered with a different message. An image can be abused from its original intention, this is done shamelessly every day in the media and maybe just as often, but not as well known, through the unauthorised use of images for advertisement and artistic entertainment.

Barrett starts by referencing Gisele Freund’s discussion of a photograph by Robert Doisneau, a cafe scene portrait of a couple captured with permission but as part of their cafe experience (not pre-planned). The photograph is used first by Doisneau in a photo essay about cafe culture. However, the photograph is then used without permission in a brochure discussing the evil’s of alcohol and then again in a french scandal sheet. This example shows how an image captured by a photographer with a purpose, idea and meaning behind it, could be so easily mis-construed by the locations in which is was later used. No explanation was needed with the photograph in the 2nd and 3rd publications, simply because of the reputation and audience with those publications, dictated a whole new meaning for the image.

The image was then displayed in various galleries with captions given to it, which once again gave it new meaning, not original and not from the mind that created it.

Maybe, it is impossible to perceive the creation and thought process of someone else. I personally can never understand someone who struggled with Maths, its wrong or right. Once you have memorised the rule of calculation, you can get the right answer, and to understand the rule, you replicate. There is one rule for all. But, with Art, Writing, music…no two outputs will be the same.

Similarly, many of the documentary images captured during world war 2, inside concentration camps, of prisoners, of stolen belongings, stolen lives, were viciously photographed by Nazi murderers to document their ‘progress’ in Germany. Later used to shock the rest of the world and show only the worst possible light on the people of Germany, and now in present day, used to educate us on history and also to remind us of the worst possible acts of human beings.

The next example used by Barrett in the article, is of Allan Sekula’s points made on the photographs of Patty Hearst, caught by an automatic bank camera. These shots if presented with no caption or understanding could be interpreted in any number of ways; self defence, willingness, mental illness, prank…etc. This is Barrett emphasising the point to the article, how the meaning of an image can be interpreted.

I personally love the next examples Barrett mentions of this change of meaning, when he describes how an image of science; rocket launches, photographs from space, embryos, magnified animal cells, are then put into art books, used as advertisements, hung in galleries to document history, and so the science becomes art. How ironic that is for the scientist who’s purpose is to prove theories to be factual, and now their work is art, so have infinite theory and infinite meaning to many people.

“Camera miniaturise experience, transform history into a spectacle.”

This is such a bold statement from Barrett, but so understandable. I studied history in high school and continued to have an interest in it long after. This same theory applies to many of the ancient paintings depicting scenes similar to the time in which they were painted. At the time of their creation, the paintings served to decorate a wealthy persons home, to ‘amuse’ the viewers, to educate the artistic scholars, and now to educate the historians. But, the historians can only have a limited understanding as they will never know truly what the artist’s intentions were with the painting, like with a photograph.

The article progresses and plunges deeper into the formula of how we determine the meaning of an image. Like a scientist, we present a theory for an image; what the artists purpose was? What the image means? And then, we have to find evidence in the image to support our theory, and so on, until we have a strong argument for our theory. Unlike a scientist, we are not able to prove our theory, unless the artist confirms it, and even then, their understanding of our theory can only be so accurate.

For some of the companies I provide marketing services for, I use a variety of stock image websites for banners and marketing literature. It sounds awful as a photographer, but I have to de-tatch myself when the subject at hand is beyond my strong suits to provide my clients with the best output possible, even if it means sacrificing the photography opportunity for myself. When I use an image from one of these websites, I am using another photographer’s work to put out a message an idea I have. This is most likely, different to the creators original idea.

I found Barrett’s article very educational and relatable in so many ways. Although the discussion of meaning and theory and image context became quite, well…intimidating, requiring me to read and re-read to fully grasp each statement in its intended meaning, I did understand the points made, I could interject my own thoughts and examples of my own experience.

Exercise 5.2

Responding to an image. This concept confused me to begin with, I spent several days contemplating the term and research the different ways in which people absorb this challenge. It was when looking for inspirational self-portrait photographers that I came across Tasha Marie, a fine art landscape and conceptual photographer who produces colourful a striking series of portrait in beautiful destinations.

Like many of the self-portrait photographers I have discovered recently, I am in awe of Tasha Marie’s work. The way she groups images together in her series, they fit so well and compliment each other. She has a way of capturing these destinations in a modern, dream-like way, making better, the already beautiful place that she is showing off.

Tasha Maries photographs speak to me in the way that they reach out to my inner-adventure, my longing and dreaming for adventure. I do have a real passion for romance and history, I love how modern television helps us picture historical destinations and a more beautiful version of how they are today. Romanticising a previous life and a previous world. Unless witnessed for myself, it can be hard to imagine that beautiful places like this still really exist, without swarms of tourists or the corruption of modern industry. Tasha Marie paints the perfect image of escape and travel, aloneness, tranquility and peace.

I contemplated various beautiful destinations I had been, and those that would be easy for me to re-visit for this exercise. I decided on an ambitious walk called ‘Wolf’s Fell’ which I got taken to a couple of years ago. My partner used this particular walk for his training when attempted the UK ‘Three Peak’s Challenge’. I always remembered this walk as I once described it as like stepping back in time to an old England, desolate in the country, little civilisation and industry.

Revisited:

When going over these exercises again, I decided to complete some additional editing on this image to bring out the colours of the surroundings. Tasha Marie’s work is all very bright and beautiful, magical and whimsical and I felt mine was lacking that kind of boldness. I manipulated the saturation and just painted in certain areas and 50% Opacity, so to not make it look too false and ammeteur.

Looking back at Terry Barrett’s article on ‘Photographs and Context’, he says there are three sources of information for examination when creating an interpretation; ‘information evident within the picture, information surrounding the picture in it’s presentation, and information about the picture’s making’. Based on this rule of interpretation I created my ‘response’ to Tasha Marie’s image based on information surrounding the picture in its presentation. I was unable to be influenced by the other two sources as there were no notes regarding the creating of the image from the photographer, nor about the information she wanted to convey through the image.

The image was part of a short series called ‘Self Portraits In Distant Places’, this conveyed message and the style of image presentation such as post-production was what inspired me, as well as the subject and the location. The points I focused on were the following:

    • Self Portrait
    • Fine Art Destination
    • ‘Self Portraits In Distant Places’
    • Contrasty, modern, colourful editing/camera work

My location as I discussed previously, is one I love because of its tranquility and desolate surrounding, distant from any other civilisation. In a way, I responded to more than just this single image, but the whole portfolio from Tasha Marie. With the exception of the title ‘Self Portraits In Distant Places’, her work follows a similar style including the other identified points I noted. I actually find that all of her images to me, associate with the same title ‘…Distant Places’.

I know I was working to re-create a stylistic device, e.g the photographic technique, dramatic impression, self-portrait subject, as opposed to a set angle of the frame or time of day.

A Homage…

I have been creating homage’s since I first decided I was interested in photography. It’s not complicated, I saw an image I like and tried to recreate it myself. Gone are the days when I didn’t need to explain myself any further. I was rewarded for showing an ability to recreate elements of a photograph. Now its much more complex, at this stage in the game I have no desire to copy another photographers work, or admit to it. So, to look deeper into the meaning of a homage would be to replicate an aspect of an image, deeper than just its primary appearance. It might be a theme, or story present in the image. Where there appears to be no obvious story or scenario it might be a style or fashion (like in a portrait series). In modern post-production/editing it might be a particular obvious skill that wanted to be replicated. It’s so much more than simply copying an image.

Egor N

Only recently, following the experiments with shutter speed in Part 3: The Frozen Moment, I was influenced when completing work for a commercial client. I led the shoot with some images of coffee beans being dropped into a martini glass. I was inspired and influenced by many of the well known iconic images online of bullets passing through apples and splashes etc. (See blog post here)

Emily Soto

The other homage I have mentioned previously is the photoshoot I did in Autumn last year, inspired by Emily Soto and Lara Jade (see blog post here). This shoot was inspired by the information about the pictures making, as I have been inspired for a long time by Lara Jade and Emily Soto by the technique and style of photography. I have looked into the technique and equipment both photographers use, so tried out this same technique in this shoot.

Project 2: Photography as information

“Photographers… are in pursuit of possibilities that are still unexplored in the cameras programme, in pursuit of informative, improbable images that have not been seen before.”
(Flusser, 2000, p37)

Looking at the image on the front cover of Rinko Kawauch’s book ‘Illuminance’, although technically it would not be classed a ‘correct’ image, it coveys appropriate information for the book it is representing. Although in Art and Photography there is not correct way of creating, there are some guideline rules to help us aim for successful images, applauded by viewers. This over-exposed image on the cover of Kawauch’s book, breaks those rules, yet serves it own purpose and is successful in doing so. I believe is conveys the message the photographer/author wants the viewers to absorb, the theme of the book, the target audience. The book is clearly aimed at theologian artists, those that are interested to look beyond the image. Not so much for those who just wish to admire pretty images. The image is very abstract, although you can make out the shape of the rose, it is intriguing to think why the photographer was satisfied with this image as it is. Is there something the photographer noticed that I had not yet? Is it purposely over-exposed to hide some secret part of the image, to create a mystery? Or perhaps it is a challenge, to educate and lecture those on a deeper meaning.

Exercise 5.3

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Hiroshi Sugimoto

When revisiting the image; Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare by Henri Cartier-Bresson, it is the figure in the background that is interests me. Why does my attention always return to them? I think because of their position and stance in relation to the main subject, they appear quite sinister, waiting for something to happen, watching what happens. If you didn’t know any of the story behind the image… you were viewing it for the first time, the background figure might be out to get the foreground figure, explaining the sudden leap across water, maybe the foreground figure was in such a panic to get away they weren’t looking where they were going.

It’s funny, but sometimes I imagine our eyes are like magnets, drawn to solid objects that attract us, small and easily picked up on. Our eyes don’t grab the biggest objects that fill the frame, they are too heavy to absorb. In contrast, our instincts are like moths, we cannot resist the harsh glare of bright light. In Hiroshi Sugimoto’s series of theatres, the glaring white screen gets my attention first. When I try and look away and focus on my second interest, things like the reflections on the chairs etc., my focus always revert, a bit like the naked sun in the corner of our eye, imprinted on our sight even when we close our eyes. If the screens were grey and blended more with the rest of the frame, I imagine my eyes would be drawn to the reflections and smaller detail, as it would stand out more against the big space, and my whole magnet theory would occur.

Similarly, Rinko Kawauchi’s cover image for the book Illuminance is almost blinding in light. I imagine this kind of extreme over-exposure is still easy for us to digest and understand than an image with the same level of extreme under-exposure. In Kawauchi’s image it is the third segment/column of the image that provides the most interest, with the more digestible point of focus being the blue spot in the image, different to the other colours and different the first obvious narrative. Maybe that is the point, that the initial subject captures our attention, as it did the photographers, and then when observing more closely we spot the other information that can then become more interesting. Maybe Cartier-Bresson took more than one image of the man leaping over water, maybe this image was chosen to be presented to viewers because of that hidden information not instantly noticed, not intended to be captured.

Finally, I have included one of my own recent images captured when completing Exercise 5.2. The point that I focused on for this shot was the Gate in the foreground. However, it was also my intention that I wanted the viewer to follow the line the wire fencing took to the horizon and see the endlessness of the shot. To me that dot on the horizon where the fence seems to end is the point that my eyes keep returning to. I love the narrative. I have observed through this module so far and throughout my own work since, that images can form a new narrative, unique to its viewer. Sometimes out narrative might be like the photographers intended message, but most often it will vary. Either way, there is as much skill in deciphering an image as capturing one.

Like most of my work nowadays I use the full Manual shooting mode, even on commissions and events. I know that I could probably save myself a lot of time, but I find it forces me to think about what I am doing and learn more about my settings, and how I manipulate each one to create a new look. Only recently I have been daring to go for a slower shutter speed without fear of camera blur. Previous to this I have had it in my head that I must have a Shutterspeed of 1/160 or more at all times. However, this has meant me compromising with things like a lower F stop or High ISO in order to compensate for the lack of exposure in my camera. I am relaxing more with this, but I am still a work in progress.

If the presets on my camera could be simplified and named according to how I use them, I suppose my desires and how the settings fit would be as follows:

  • Soft Portrait – Low ISO, Medium Shutterspeed
  • Bold Landscape – High exposure, Medium ISO, Medium Shutterspeed
  • Sharp Masterpiece – Medium/High ISO, Medium/High Shutterspeed